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Wood Destroying Insects

  • There is (y/n)__________ evidence of wood destroying insect damage in the visible and accessible areas of the subject property. If there was any aspect of performing a home inspection that the inspector is believed by some clients to have X-ray vision, then this one takes the prize! If Superman really existed, he would make a fortune as a termite inspector! Many home inspectors get complaints from former clients because they did not notice termites that were behind the finished and covered walls and/or floors. THE INSPECTOR CANNOT BE HELD RESPONSIBLE FOR AREAS AND ITEMS THAT ARE NOT ACCESSIBLE OR NOT VISIBLE!!
  • There are many different types of wood destroying insects, including 70 species of termites throughout the world. The wood destroying insects that generally concerns people the most are: Subterranean Termites, Dry Wood Termites, Damp Wood Termites, Powder Post Beetles, Carpenter Ants, and Carpenter Bees.
  • Termites eat the wood and turn it into food. They have one celled organisms in their digestive tracts which converts the cellulose of wood back into sugar which they can digest. In forests termites are beneficial in the fact that they help to decompose fallen trees and stumps and return the wood substances to the soil to be used again by other trees. Termite damaged wood will have channels in it and there will not be any sawdust around.

  • Powder Post Beetle larvae eat the wood and lay their eggs in it. They cannot convert the cellulose in the wood to sugar and therefore, must get their nourishment from the starch and sugar which the tree had stored in the wood cells. To these insects the cellulose in the wood has no food value and is thus ejected from their bodies as wood powder or "frass." They derive nourishment from the starch and sugar in the wood.

  • Powder Post Beetle damaged wood will crumble like sawdust when you probe it. A common indication of these insects is the existence of tiny holes in the wood. If only a single generation of this beetle larvae has fed within some wood, it is usually still structurally sound. But the feeding of generation after generation is what reduces the interior of the wood to a mass of powder. Before the female will attach her eggs to a piece of wood, she first actually tastes the wood to be sure it contains enough sugar and starch to nourish her offspring. If she is prevented from doing this due to any covering on the wood, such as paint, varnish, stain, etc., she will not deposit her eggs in the wood and it will not be reinfested with another generation of Powder Post Beetle larvae. That is why there should not be any untreated wood around the house.

  • Carpenter Ants and Carpenter Bees merely excavate the wood to make nests. The damage they cause will leave sawdust outside the wood channels.

  • An important fact to remember when getting a corrective wood destroying insect treatment on a house is that it is recommended that all if the damaged wood be removed and replaced. This will ensure that any damaged areas of wood are re-supported with good, solid lumber. Another reason for this is that there is no way to tell down the road if the wood had gotten the termite damage before or after the corrective treatment was performed.
  • They say there are 2 kinds of houses: Houses that have termites; and Houses that will have termites. That's a fact. All houses will get termite damage to some extent eventually. Sometimes builders will install a termite shield along the top of the foundation wall. A "termite shield" is a small metal guard or molding placed at the top of the foundation walls. It is similar in purpose to installing a cap plate at the top of concrete block walls. However, these shields do not prevent termites. The only benefit from them is that they might deter termites or make it a little more difficult for them to reach the wood.
  • There are many ways to help prevent wood destroying insect and rot damage:
  • Use pressure treated lumber whenever replacing or constructing anything on the site or in the house. Pressure treated lumber has a greenish color to it. It is rot and termite resistant for up to 40 years. The most common type of pressure treated wood is called CCA 40. There is also a CCA 60 pressure treated lumber that has a higher pressurization and life expectancy than CCA 40 does.

  • The way the pressure treated process works is they will take the lumber and place it in large vats of chemicals where it will sit until the chemicals are absorbed sufficiently into the wood. The chemicals they use are copper, chromate and arsenic. The arsenic deters any wood destroying insects. The type of wood that is used for pressure treated lumber is Southern Yellow Pine. The reason for this is that it is the best lumber to use for the chemical process performed.

  • Another way to help prevent wood destroying insect and rot damage is to keep all wood siding and trim work about 8 inches above the soil to make it more difficult for termites to get to their food source. Keep all bushes and shrubs pruned and keep the soil and drainage leaders sloped away from the foundation. This will help prevent any dark and moist areas that attracts termites.

  • Get a preventive wood destroying insect treatment before finding any damage, as opposed to a corrective treatment after the damage is found. Preventive treatments are usually about half he cost of a corrective treatment because they only treat around the exterior perimeter of the house.

  • It is highly recommended that you get a corrective treatment if the inspector finds damage and a preventive treatment if the inspector does not find any damage. Since all houses do get some form of wood destroying insect damage over time, you might as well eliminate the problem ahead of time when it is less expensive to do so. It is also easier to sell a house with a preventive treatment before any damage is found, as opposed to a corrective treatment done after there was damage found.
  • There are certain houses that many Pest Control Operators, (PCO), will not treat, or else there will be only a limited number of them that will treat the house. Some of these houses that can be difficult to treat are:
  • Houses with on-site well water systems. The PCO has to worry about contaminating the well water supply. If the well is less than 100 feet from the house your chances of finding a PCO to treat diminish even further.

  • Houses that have brick foundation walls. The PCO has to worry about contaminating the house by seepage through the brick walls.

  • Houses that have air ducts embedded in the lower level cement floor for the heating or air-conditioning systems. The PCO has to worry about contaminating the air ducts.

  • If the inspection is being conducted on a condominium then the By-Laws or Prospectus of the Condo/Owner's Association may have requirements that can in some way restrict wood destroying insect treatments.

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